Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Sometimes when residents voice concerns at a public meeting, officials actually listen and try to do something

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Sometimes it pays for citizens to come to public meetings to voice their concerns.

Such was the case Tuesday night, at least based on initial, or preliminary, action, for Janice Holt Cashion, who owns property at the corner of Lacy Holt and Monroe Holt roads.

On the planning board’s agenda that night was a seemingly routine request for a site plan amendment for a single-family subdivision, Lacy Farms, along Lacy Holt Road adjacent to Cashion’s property.

[Story continues below photo.]

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There were three components to the request brought by developer LeoTerra’s “Kat” Lyons, sister of company president Buddy Lyons.

The three components included: eliminating two of the three proposed mail kiosks, consolidating into a larger single one at the front of the subdivision, which she said was being done at the request of the U.S. Postal Service; eliminating one of two connections (on Tonewood Drive) to an adjacent, existing subdivision; and removal of two lots in order to provide more open space in the center of the 193-home development.

[Story continues below proposed amended site plan for the Lacy Farms subdivision off Lacy Holt Road, Graham.] 

Left unchanged was a promise included in the originally-adopted plan not to make a connection to Wendy Drive on the north side of the new subdivision.

When presiding board chairman Michael Benesch asked for any comments from residents in the audience, Cashion came forward to complain about a promised 30-foot buffer next to her acreage, which she described as a longtime family farm that she doesn’t intend to sell.

Cashion called attention to details on the proposed revised site plan, showing that the northern section of Archer Drive, which was scheduled to “stub out” into her acreage with a 30-foot buffer, had now had its proposed buffer reduced or eliminated in order to provide a turnaround for city fire and maintenance vehicles – a turnaround that had not been shown on the original plans.

[Story continues below photos.]

Janice Holt Cashion asked planning board members to put back the 30-foot buffer between the subdivision and her farmland, as it had been proposed when first approved. Below is photo of the Mrs. Cashion’s field behind the subdivision.

Cashion said that neighbors had been promised the 30-foot buffer when the subdivision was approved, and she raised objections to the fact that it was city officials who had reduced the buffer in order to accommodate city fire trucks and other vehicles without any notification to the residents that the plans were being changed.

Cashion pleaded with planning board members to restore the promised buffer next to her farm property.

Discussion evolved into the possibility that the developer could trade, or swap, one of its lots near the turnaround (in order to widen the buffer back to 30 feet) for space freed up elsewhere – either from reducing the mail kiosks or eliminating the cut-through road to Tonewood Drive.

Planning board member John Wooten initially urged the board to deal only with the three components of the request being made by the developer and “not to do anything on the fly” regarding Cashion’s request.

But other planning board members seemed more sympathetic to handling the whole matter comprehensively, while acknowledging that a final decision will, as always, be left to the city council’s final determination.

Ultimately, board member Chad Huffine proposed to adopt the three changes requested by the developer and add a fourth provision that a lot at the turnaround be diverted for a restoration of the 30-foot buffer, with the developer being allowed to add one to three lots elsewhere in the subdivision.

Planning board members Tony Bailey, Chad Huffine, and Michael Benesch.

Lyons had asked that rather than specifying precisely where that trade might be, that her engineers have some time to measure and assess where within the subdivision the trade would work best.

With that caveat, the board unanimously passed Huffine’s motion 6-0. Voting in favor, in addition to Huffine, were: acting chairman Benesch, Wooten, and board members Tony Bailey, Jerome Bias, and James Stockert.

The city council will consider the same issue at its next meeting, on August 8.

Other neighbors with concerns seemed largely assuaged by Lyons’ assurances. Demetrius Curtis wanted to ensure that existing mature trees behind her Rockwood Drive home, at the back of the Lacy Farms subdivison, would be left undisturbed, rather than being clear-cut with small saplings replanted in their place.

Other areas in Graham have had this issue arise, which has irritated some city council members, most notably mayor Jennifer Talley, who has claimed that a different developer, Windsor Homes, had clear-cut all the trees on one subdivision rather than leaving the mature, periphery trees adjacent to existing neighborhoods.

Lindsay McKinney also came before the board to voice concerns about flooding on her property north of the Lacy Farms development, which she said had begun only in the past few months since the developer had cut down trees along their shared property line on the north side of the LeoTerra subdivision.

Lindsay McKinney during planning board meeting, expressing concerns about flooding on her property since trees along the border with the subdivision were cut down. Demetrius Curtis, second row back seated beside her husband, expressed concerns that existing mature tree buffer behind their home on Rockwood Drive would remain, rather than being clear-cut and replaced with much smaller saplings.

McKinney was assured that state law and Graham’s ordinances will require that water runoff from the new development won’t increase after the project is fully complete.

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